There's a distinction I've been meaning to draw on this blog for a long time, and now seems as good a time as any to draw it.
Let's say that you are pretty serious about being an artist: not just going off somewhere alone and making some work, but actually having the work be a career. Well, then, you're going to be facing a series of demands that are not only conflicting, but very possibly irreconcilable.
On the one hand, you have absolutely got to follow your inspiration and produce work that is as true as you can muster.
On the other hand, you've got to go out in the world and convince other people that your work is worthwhile. This particular going-out is especially nasty in the art world. There are three reasons for this:
1. Art doesn't really matter. Sure, you can claim that art nourishes the spiritual life of Man. That is a noble claim, and I encourage you to make it to somebody who remembers the value of their index fund before 2008.
2. Quality in art is presently unquantifiable, and is likely to remain so for the indefinite future. It is simply impossible to authoritatively claim that one piece is better than another without coming off as a jackass. This doesn't mean that you and I won't try.
3. Supply vastly outstrips demand. Between MFA factories and off-the-street savants, radically more art - even good art - is produced every year than the scarce dollars assigned to the art market can absorb. Don't be confused by the enormous price tags of famous sales. Money in art is unequally distributed, but even if it weren't, there is nowhere near enough of it to support the number of people who want to be artists.
These three problems divorce the art world from most of the dynamics which we assume govern any industry - things like value and common sense. When an industry is untethered from optimizing its product, a more evolutionarily primitive set of behaviors obtains. Art, like the other useless industries - fashion, film, and high school - is largely governed, at a political level, by the most simple-minded of primate dynamics; all the nonsense about eye contact, silver backs, exposing the teeth, and so forth. Experimentation (seriously twisted experimentation) has shown that rhesus macaques will pay good money (cherry juice) to look at photographs of the perineums and faces of, respectively, the most high-status females and high-status males and females of their communities.
Useless industries function on the same basic principles: dominance by sex, by force, and by social rank.
So, once you decide to be a serious artist, you face a set of conflicting demands which can make you lose, first, your soul, and then, your mind. You have to be both Saint Francis and Caligula.
How to deal?
For my part, I encourage a healthy split personality. I have cultivated one myself. One of me exists inside the studio, and never comes out. The other of me exists outside the studio, and never goes in. They are encouraged to IM one another to make sure they're generally on the same page, but often they disagree and go their separate ways.
For the sake of convenience, I call the inside-the-studio part of my personality Vincent. Vincent makes the art.
The outside-the-studio part of my personality is Theo. Theo sells the art.
You may have noticed that some of my blog posts are about art, and some are about art in the world. The first kind of post I think of as a Vincent post; the second a Theo post. I get anxious when I write too many Theo posts in a row because, basically, this is a secondary set of considerations.
Now, let me Theo at you for a minute.
In my previous post, I invited you to an opening at Dacia Gallery on Thursday evening, for a group show, "Reflections," in which three of my Blue Leah paintings were shown. Some friends came by, and I was glad to see them. The caliber of work was high. The presentation was professional. The dealers are nice guys and, even better, not clueless. The opening went really nicely, and I had a good time. Here are a few pictures.